I took myself out for a walk just before lunchtime and
headed up to the end of the road to get myself onto the Ranscombe loop. It started even before the underpass tunnel
with the first bramble clump leaping with life.
Dozens of small shiny Dolichopodids zipped over the leaves but did not
seem to engage in any of the fine dance moves of their larger cousin Poecilobothrus
nobilitatus. There were lots of Honey
Bees in attendance and several striking Tachinids that I think I now recognise
(thanks to Phil’s sleuthing) as Blepharipa pratensis which parasitize the
invasive Gypsy moth. To me they always
look on guard and ready to pounce, the wing bases look orangey (but that is the
colour underneath) and they have obviously white feet. I am now seeing them wherever I go around here
and I believe Phil has had similar encounters north of the Thames.
| Blepharipa pratensis |
| Blepharipa pratensis |
Anyway, once through the first section of wood I set about walking
down the CTRL to look for the Bee Orchids.
Unlike last year where there were hundreds, I only found a few and many
were well over but as usual they are a joy to see close up. Pyramidal Orchids were pushing through the
herbage and I found one Common Spotted too.
The first Meadow Browns were on the wing and Small Blues were seen
dancing over a bramble before returning to lower flowers while a Large Skipper
was the only other species seen here.
Xanthogramma pedissequum was the pick of the common Hoverflies
although a Merodon equestris is always good to find. There were lots of Roesel's and Dark Bush Crickets and Meadow and Field
Grasshopperlings and a little Grass Moth (Eucosma cana) posed for me.
|Merodon equestris |
|Roesel's Bush Cricket|
|Xanthogramma pedissequum |
A fine plump female Misumena vatia lay in wait on a Knapweed
head and Wolf Spiders scurried around with egg sacs in tow.
|Misumena vatia |
|you could hear the Gorse popping|
|Grass Moth (Eucosma cana)|
I cut through the dark wood and into the wheat field with
its natural margins. I had sort of guessed
from a post by Ranscombe the other day that this is where the Rough Mallow
would be thriving and I was not wrong and found a profusion of these small
pale pink flowers around the edges along with Medicks, Scarlet Pimpernels and
Clovers. A fine patch of Vipers Bugloss was also in bloom and I disturbed three
Burnet Companions and Straw Dots from the path edge along with two Sicus ferrugineus.
| Rough Mallow|
| Viper's Bugloss|
The huge bank of Bramble at the far end of the field was
literally humming with Honey Bees along with a good Bumblebee selection that
included Bombus hypnorum. Lasioglossum xanthopus was identified by Tim Strudwick for me. I thought it was Andrena flavipes I was hoping for Andrena florea but the White
Bryony here seems to be over. A couple of pristine Small Tortoiseshells came in
and both Xylota segnis and the much larger Xylota sylvarum were padulating
their way across sticky leaves. These two species never really feel like
Lasioglossum xanthopus - thanks Tim!
|Not sure if this is an Andrena |
| Hairy Shieldbug|
| Kentish Snail|
| Scorpion Fly - they were everywhere|
| Small Tortoiseshell|
| Xylota segnis|
A tangle of Peacock caterpillars were in the Nettles near
the gate along with Nettle Tap moths and a funky Hazel Leaf Roller Beetle was
watching the world at eye level as I squeezed my way through without getting
Nettled. Needless to say it was quiet
birdwise with just a few singing Blackcap, a Garden Warbler and two Chiffchaffs.
|Hazel Leaf Roller - Apoderus coryli |
|Large White cat|
I followed the path down to Birchwood Corner and the fine
Medway view before making my way to Sam’s Bench for lunch with my favourite
Valley view and a fine spread of Meadow Clary just in front of me. A group of Fallow Deer briefly appeared but
magically disappeared in the meadow below.
The meadow and trees above Kitchen Field gave me a few Man
Orchids on their last legs and lots of new shocking pink triangles of Pyramidal
Orchids poking through the patches of Wild Liquorice. I was delighted to see my
first Marbled Whites of the year and it felt like they were all newly emerged
being absolutely mint and in fact the Ringlet that I found was almost at the maiden
flight point in its life.
|Agapanthia villosoviridiscens |
I could not find any Bee Orchids here or Blue Pimpernel as I
walked down into the field itself. There
were a scattering of Field Poppies as well as some minute single ones. The main spread is further down the Valley
this year. I spied a patch of Hogweed down in the far corner and diverted that
It had warmed up a bit and the air was heady with the rich
smell of pigsty and where there is pong there are flies. There were plenty of Lucilia and a few Sarcs
and I counted eight Linnaemyia with their odd antennae (I hope I am right!).
Myathropa florea and Eristalis arbustorum and pertinax were seen and three Cheilosia illustrata but the prize went to a Leucozona laternaria. I have only seen this distinctive species in the south-west before and was not expecting it here. I saw two in the end but failed miserably to get any images but was still happy.
Four stag Fallow Deer appeared magically in the meadow next
door with their new head gear still all soft and velvet covered. They knew I was there but we kept our
respective distances and they carried on feeding. I could hear a Skylark singing and a male Sparrowhawk
erupted from the tree with Blackbirds alarming wildly.
I entered the newly rejuvenated Brockles Field and followed
the edge to the west finding countless Pyramidal Orchids, some Common Broomrape
and a single Bee Orchid. A tan coloured
beetle in a Dog Rose turned out to be an Orchid Beetle whose larvae feed on the
roots of certain species. Rhingia campestris
and Volucella bombylans were added to the Hover list and a very large Tachinid
may just be a heavy weight female Tachina fera but I have asked for some help. She was very impressive! Celypha lacunana was seen
in the grasses but my netting skills were to be honest, pants today so I missed
a few more.
|Orchid Beetle - Dascillus cervinus|
|Red Soldier Beetles and Oedemera nobilis|
|Rhingia campestris |
|Tachina fera or similar|
Rock Rose and both Bladder and White Campions
were seen and there were a couple of lilac Opium Poppies in bloom.
|Common Rock Rose|
At the bottom of the next field I usually linger at the
entrance back into the woods and it was worth the time as usual with Small Heath, Brimstone
and Small White seen followed by some more quality time watching the insects
come and go on the Brambles and Upright Hedge Parsley.
Both Xylota were seen again along with Cheilosia illustrata,
soror and impressa and the gleaming green-bronze of Chloromyia formosa caught the
|Cheilosia impressa |
|Cheilosia soror |
|Xylota segnis |
|Xylota segnis |
There were several presumably Parasitic Wasps with one with
very distinctive legs with some almost pale green and others black with a white
band. Someone must know what it is! Blepharipa pratensis was seen again along
with another small Tachinid and there were at least three Sawfly species and Tephritis hyoscyami Picture Wing Flies.
|Blepharipa pratensis |
|Blepharipa pratensis |
|smaller Tachinid |
|Tephritis hyoscyami |
|Tephritis hyoscyami |
|Funky wasp sp|
I was particularly pleased to discover the Tumbling Flower Beetles
once again with Variimorda villosa briefly on the umbellifers before rolling
away if I got too close!
The woodland ride was being patrolled by male Eristalis
intricaria with Syrphus and Helophilus in the edges and I found the Bag Worm
case of Psyche casta as I walked slowly up through the edge of the pine
belt. The ground in one area was very disturbed
and although I am pretty sure that there are no Wild Boar in Ranscombe that is
what the disturbance under the pines looked like.
|Eristalis intricaria |
I carefully made my way up through the Bracken path trying
to avoid as much contact as possible to avoid collecting questing Ticks but
thankfully only added a Comma in the process. I entered the Cobham Wood section
and made my way up to the Darnley Mausoleum seeing three Brown Silver-lines and
two Cinnabar moths along with a few more Hovers and Bees. A Green Woodpecker nest was noisy and I could
hear a Whitethroat out on the open area.
|Brown Silver-lines |
As usual the walk down through the woods from here was peaceful
and I did not see another soul (in fact I had only seen two in four hours).
Speckled Woods and Red Admiral were seen in sunny spots and the Emperor Oak is
looking just grand for a few weeks time and at the last kissing gate I found my
Bryony Bees on a nice patch of White Bryony flowering along the fence.
There were Grey Squirrels everywhere – herds of the furry
buggers and by the time I got back to the CTRL bridge I had seen 41 on the path
in front of me. There is no way that
that is a good sign for any small birds nesting in these woods and also goes to
show that at least in this bit of Kent there are still no apex avian predators
to control such a population.
|Grey Squirrels and Mistle Thrushes|
I finished up with another Bee Orchid and Common Spotted on
the bridge itself and the Twayblade was still flowering too with little pink
dots of Grass Vetchling magic poking through the herbage.
|Bee Orchid |
| Common Spotted Orchids|
It was good to get back out on the loop but my energy levels
are definitely at a low ebb and it will take some time before I am up to walking
the sort of mileage I did during my Furlough year.
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